Honestly. I would really like to just quit right now.
This morning, I tried calling a plumber about switching out our well pump in the basement. This would be the third plumber we’ve contacted in the past few weeks.
To recap: we are on a deep well for water. There is an immersion pump in the well itself, and two pipes going from the well to our basement, into another pump. The two pipes in at one end become one pipe out the other, pumping water into our pressure tank.
The well pump in the basement has been making noises. At times, the pressure is lost, as if it is losing prime, or as if we’re using the water faster than it can refill the pressure tank. When that happens, it makes a grinding noise. Once the pressure gauge on the pump is where it’s supposed to be, it goes quiet and stays quite for the rest of the time it’s running, but the noises return frequently, if not every time it turns on. Basically, it seems to be wearing out.
My older brother had bought us a new pump and was going to install it for us, but we ended up fighting with our septic, instead. So the new pump, with all the fittings, clamps and whatnot that he could think of possibly needing, has been sitting and waiting ever since. Instead of making my brother come back, we were just going to hire a plumber. Unfortunately, the “discretionary” funds had to go towards vehicle repairs, but I really wanted to get that done before winter, in case the plumber needed to go into the well, since there was also the possibility the foot valve in there was leaking.
I called the plumber and left a message, honestly not expecting to hear back until Monday. So it was a pleasant surprise to get a call back a couple of hours later.
I had said in the message what we needed done, and that we already had a pump. It just needed to be switched up.
When he called, he asked if I meant the immersion pump. No, I said. The one in the basement. He seemed confused. I brought up the possibility of the foot valve leaking in the well, but that it was the pump in the basement that was making the noise, and we wanted to switch that out.
He said they had better come out and take a look.
They came out this afternoon!
I now understand why he was confused. I’m starting to get the impression that we are the only ones that still have this old system. Once they were in the basement, checking it out, he explained that basically, no one likes to work on these systems, because they are such a problem. He asked me to turn on a tap to trigger the pump to turn on, so I went to the bathtub and did what we normally avoid doing: turned both taps on to full. This not only turned on the pump, but triggered that grinding noise and, eventually, I lost water to the tub. Which is when I shut off the taps and joined them in the basement again.
Once the pump’s pressure reached where it was supposed to be, the pump was nice and quiet again. He told me that, it’s not a matter of simply switching pumps. The front cap of the new pump would have to be removed and installed inside the well itself – and there would be just one pipe leading to the basement and the rest of the pump. There was a good chance changing it would cause further problems, which is when he asked to see the well.
They were able to get the cap off, with it’s one bent up handle. I am pretty sure this is the first time I have ever seen the inside. My only memories are of when the trench was dug from where this well was dug, towards the barn. That is where a water pipe to serve the barn and water fountains for the cows was laid, as well as the main pipe for the grey water from our septic tank. I don’t know exactly where near the barn these pipes split off in opposite directions, but I do have a general idea of where it must be.
Once the plumber used the ladder to get into the well, his assistant had to take it out so he’d have room to actually move around.
The news did not get any better.
It seems ours is a 4 inch well. Modern wells are 5 inch. That means there is a smaller immersion pump – a size that’s very hard to find these days.
Like the first plumber we talked to – the guy who has worked in our well before – he said it would be better to replace the immersion pump. This would mean one pipe into the house (the other could be used for the electrical wires to go through) and no pump in the house.
The other problem with doing that job is, the cap inside the well – what he was standing on to check out the system – would have to be removed. There’s no way to know how high the water table is right there, but given how damp and rusty things were, it’s probably quite high. Which means they’d be working in water.
However, this is a 50 year old well.
What we really need is a new well.
We could do all the other work, spending what might be as much as a couple thousand dollars but, in the end, we could lose out water entirely. He did not dare even switch out the pump in the basement, for fear of losing us our water.
As we were chatting, I asked questions and mentioned various things, ranging from the snails that showed up in our fish tank after using well water to make a change (I forgot to mention the algae blooms), and how we stopped drinking the water since them,to having to shock the hot water tank with hydrogen peroxide regularly because of the smell.
By the time I got to that, he was looking a little wild eyed. What had been, to paraphrase, as sort of “I won’t go so far as to recommend it, but if it were me, I’d drill a new well,” became a “yeah… you really need a new well!” The more he heard about it, the more he wanted to stay away from doing things like replacing the pumps, either one at a time, or both at once. We definitely have issues that are beyond what they can do for us.
In the end, after apologizing for being the bearer of bad news, I gave him my email so he could send me some names for well drillers.
Oh, and when I asked if he knew what a new well might cost? Depending on various factors, of course, it could cost as much as $10,000.
I told him that if we had that kind of money, we’d have a new roof! 😀
Normally, they would have charged for a service call like this, but by the end of it, he said he would not charge us anything. Then apologized again for all the bad news. My response was along the lines of, with this place, I’ve come to expect it!
For now, we were basically told to hang in there with what we’ve got. We have water right now, and it’s not worth jeopardizing that until we are in a position to get the job done fully.
So, not only do we need $10,000 for a new roof, now we need another $10,000 (estimated) for a new well. That’s on top of everything else that needs replacing, like flooring and walls and repairing the old basement walls, and the weeping tile under the new basement… on and on it goes.
Coming up with that kind of money is a challenge all on its own. Doing it without jeopardizing my husband’s disability insurance is another issue. If we made that much in “income,” he’d basically lose his insurance. It’s not just a matter of his disability income that we are living on, but coverage for his medications.
Needless to say, I got zero work on the sun room door today.
It would be so much easier if we could quit, somehow.
But that’s just not an option.
So, I guess we’ll just have to figure something out.